When Google Glass was introduced in 2012 I was really excited. Cell phone cameras are great but I really wanted the opportunity to document memories as they unfolded. When walking around the streets of Philly, I’ll invariably see a kid do a crazy bike trick or watch a sweet old couple embrace on a park bench. But by the time I pull my phone out of my pocket, open the camera app then take a pic, the moment is lost.
I figured Google Glass would give me the opportunity to finally take pictures of whatever was in my purview. After all, the camera would be on my face. I’d just have to look in the right direction and tap a button.
Then I found out I had to write an essay and get on a waiting list for the privilege of paying $1,500 for a Google Glass headset. Then I saw someone wearing them in real-life looking very, very dorky. Then came the awful reviews — and the result was one of the biggest product failures in tech history.
So when Snapchat (now called Snap Inc.) announced Spectacles last week I was skeptical. If mighty Google couldn’t succeed with techie glasses, how could Snapchat?
But digging deeper, the answer is clear: simplicity. Spectacles do one thing: Take video. The glasses have a small video camera armed with a notification light that tells other people when it’s filming. (That certainly lessens the creeper factor from Google Glass, which did not notify people when it was filming or taking pics.) Then the Spectacles transmit 10-second clips to the Snapchat app. The “circular video plays full screen on any device, in any orientation, and captures the human perspective with a 115 degree field of view,” according to a Snapchat blog post.
Google Glass was anything but simple, with applications like email, Maps navigation and other features. It was all too much for a society not yet ready to embrace a headwear computer.
“Since it could be used to take pictures and record video, but also get emails and notifications and navigate yourself from place to place using Google Maps, you were never quite sure what that person wearing that weird-looking headset was doing,” wrote Dave Smith of Business Insider.
And let’s face it, people just didn’t want to look like cyborgs. Paresh Dave of the Los Angeles Times said Spectacles represent “a softer nudge” since the product looks like trendy sunglasses. They come in fun colors like coral, teal and black — not the wireframes like Google Glass.
“It’s encouraging people to try a familiar-looking product to experiment with a new way of taking videos,” Dave wrote. Basically, it’s a toy, not a computer on your face.
Then there’s price. At $129 Spectacles are much cheaper than the $1,500 Glass.
“That’s around as much as you’ll pay for a pair of Ray Bans,” Smith wrote, “but Ray Bans can’t record your life from a first-person perspective and share it with the world through Snapchat.”
Still, Spectacles could fail. Will the video quality be any good? How much video will it be able to hold? Will the extra step of transferring video from your sunglasses to your smartphone turn people off?
“Like all first-generation products, Specs look just a little bit doofy,” wrote Brian Barrett in Wired. “Its 115-degree field of view, circular video is certainly different, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily better. Sunglasses you have to charge every day seems like a drag.”
Are you excited for Spectacles? Sound off in the comments!